I’ve been a big wrestling fan since 1988 and there is actually an interesting syncronicity to magic for me. In Dec of 1988, I was watching one of only four major Pay Per Views (at that time) by WWE (then known as WWF), SummerSlam, in my parent’s bedroom. This was the first Pay Per View of WWE that I had ever watched.
While I was watching it, one of my parents came in to give me a birthday present from someone. It turned out to be my first magic set from Chu’s Magic. So, I sat on the floor opening up this set and trying to figure out how to do the tricks as “Macho Man” Randy Savage and “Hulk” Hogan were battled Ted Dibiase “The Million Dollar Man” and Andre the Giant in a tag team main event.
So, I’ve been watching wrestling as long as I’ve been into magic, to a certain extent. Since there were no opportunities to become a wrestler, I guess I became a magician. What would have happened if I was given a science set and was watching football? Hmmm.
I’ve always felt that was an uncanny similarity between wrestling and magic. Both as crafts and how the respective talents in the professions are promoted and marketed. For example;
1) Both crafts are a simulation of reality and require deception to create an illusion as entertainment.
2) The fact that the crafts are simulation of reality has spurred people to call both crafts ‘fake’. Well, then the same can be said of a movie, television show or play. The truth is, just like acting, both wrestling and magic require skill, technique, timing and experience to put together a good wrestling match and good magic show.
3) A good wrestling match and good magic show both require good story telling, pacing and execution to make it believable and entertaining for the audience. A botched wrestling move is like a flash in magic. Both expose the ‘deception’ of the craft which breaks the audiences suspension of belief. It is like watching a movie with bad CGI effects, it ruins the moment and illusion.
4) Wrestlers have finishing moves which are signature to them. This is very similar to magicians or illusionists who have signature acts that audiences identify with them.
5) Technical and skill are often not enough to “get over” or be successful in either business. You need a distinct compelling commercial character that audiences like and get behind. The most successful wrestlers of all time were not great technical wrestlers but had tremendous charisma and personality. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin*, “The Rock” and “Hulk” Hogan are notable wreslters. *Austin was a tremendous technical wrestler but ironically got over when he toned down his wrestling style after getting his neck broken by the late-Owen Hate.
6) The promotion/ clients reward talent that are proven to entertain and draw the crowd.
7) Jealously, hypocrisy and gossip are rampant in both businesses. Often Indie or mid-card wrestlers are unhappy or jealous with wrestlers who are main eventing or higher up in the card. The lower-card wrestlers always feel that they have all the skills, if not more, to be main eventers and always end up bitter for not getting their shot. In reality, these wrestlers often don’t have the complete package or right attitude/ work ethic/ look that gets them over with the crowd or bosses.
8 ) Both trades are not considered traditional mainstream entertainment but have in the last decade had significant cross over sucess. One reason is that both trades have had tremendous evolution in techniques and the presentation of the crafts in the last ten years. (More on this in another entry)
I guess it is the acute similarities in both crafts that makes me drawn to both. All facets in both trades fascinate me; from the what goes on in the ring/ onstage, to the behind the scenes, production, innovation and marketing of the businesses.
My advice to all budding commerical magicians are to study the wrestling business to see what works and what does not, to see who is successful and who is not, and why. Understanding why one wreslter is much more succesful than another can help you craft your own image, brand and career.